April 30th, 2009
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso arrived in China yesterday with the hope of improving relations between the two countries which have been strained for quite some time.
In Beijing, Prime Minister Aso met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to discuss the current financial crisis, the North Korean nuclear threat, and other topics that will be better resolved with improved bilateral relations.
“The development of stable, long-term, friendly neighborly Sino-Japan relations meets the fundamental interests of the people of both our nations,” said Premier Jiabao.
Japan’s past actions, dating back to the 1937 Nanjing massacre, have left many in China with Anti-Japanese sentiment.
“Historical issues are sensitive and affect the feelings of a nation’s people. It is hoped the Japanese side can endeavor to handle them properly,” remarked Premier Jiabao.
April 29th, 2009
In an effort to maintain a smaller yet more effective fighting force, Moscow announced that it will release approximately 36,000 officers this year.
“We believe that in the final account, no more than 36,000 or 37,000 servicemen will be fired (in 2009), maybe more, maybe less,” said Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov to local reporters on Tuesday.
This will be followed up next year when Russia plans to reduce their military forces from 1.13 to 1 million troops and cut its officers by nearly half, down to 150,000.
Mr. Pankov has confirmed that this is still the agenda despite these lay-offs coming at a time when Russia is experiencing unemployment around 10 percent.
April 28th, 2009
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Kazakhstan’s state oil company Kazmunaigas have agreed to jointly purchase Kazakh oil company JSC Mangistaumunaigas (MMG) for US$3.3 billion.
This news comes following a US$5 billion loan-for-oil agreement between Chinese and Kazakh officials earlier this month.
“The transaction is an important step to develop long-term strategic partnership between China and Kazakhstan. It also helps our overseas expansion,” CNPC said in a statement on their website.
The purchase of MMG includes two oil and gas fields and the licenses to explore and develop 15 others in Kazakhstan and the Caspian region. It also includes all other oil and natural gas assets.
MMG’s crude oil output in 2008 was 40 million barrels and it had 41.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, according to China Daily.
April 24th, 2009
Officials from the Banking Association for Central and Eastern Europe (BACEE) voiced their desire for Eastern European countries to play a greater role in discussing solutions to the current world financial crisis during a banking conference in Vienna, Austria on Thursday.
BACEE Chief Istvan Lengyel is upset that Eastern Europe doesn’t have much representation in formulating international accounting rules and is being blamed for exacerbating the current situation which was largely caused by Western banks.
“Our banks and governments must be consulted when it comes to solving the problems,” said Lengyel during a news conference.
April 22nd, 2009
Cuba’s central bank will put restrictions on the banking transactions of foreign companies operating inside the communist country starting on May 7th, according to Reuters.
The Nuevo Tribune newspaper has speculated that this surprise move has come as an attempt to cut down on illegal financial activities, such as money laundering, which have become a problem in the country.
Other sources believe that the move is in response to liquidity problems in the economy following a disappointing 2008.
The news regarding the changing banking policy was sent out via mail by state-owned Banco Metropolitano to foreign establishments and associations.
In the future, withdrawals will be restricted to those required to pay salaries to Cuban employees and special authorization from bank officials will be required for other bank transactions.
April 21st, 2009
South Korea agreed to meet with North Korea on Sunday at the latter’s request, marking the first meeting between the neighboring countries in more than a year.
The upcoming meeting comes amidst a flurry of controversy surrounding the North’s launch on April 5th of a Taepong-2 rocket; which they claimed to be a satellite launch, but what is believed by many countries to have instead been a test of North Korea’s missile launching capabilities.
The meeting will reportedly be held at the Kaesong joint industrial zone in the North, but other details, such as the agenda and nature of the talk, are still unconfirmed and are said to be determined once the delegation arrives.
April 20th, 2009
The World Health Organization has issued a report stating that the spread of multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has reached “epidemic” proportions in many ex-Soviet nations and is now widespread in many provinces in China. Data collected during 2002-2007 showed that one in nine patients of the approximately nine million new cases of TB each year failed to respond to at least one anti-TB drug.
Cases of MDR-TB reached between 9%- 22% of all TB infections in ex-Soviet states, while nearly 20% of all cases in Eastern Europe were drug resistant. In countries such as the UK, France, New Zealand the rate is 1% or lower. Cases recorded in China are believed to show an average of 15% all TB infections being MRD-TB.
April 17th, 2009
Russian officials have claimed victory in the Chechen Republic on Thursday after a decade long battle against terrorists and Muslim separatists in the region.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechnya has been the site of two wars and was accused of producing the terrorists responsible for the 1999 bombings in Moscow.
Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov has emerged victorious in the conflict, but has come under harsh criticism for what critics have seen as violations of human rights.
Although seemingly effective, President Kadyrov’s speed and brutality in dealing with the situation over the last few years has reportedly included kidnapping, torture, and executions.
Nevertheless, Russia’s National Antiterrorist Committee has stated that the decision to end the security regime was necessary, “to guarantee conditions for the further normalization of the situation in the republic and for the development of its social and economic spheres.”
April 16th, 2009
NATO announced on Wednesday plans to conduct military training exercises from May 6th to June 1st near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
Georgia has been a hot topic recently in the wake of the brief war over South Ossetia last summer between Russian and Georgian forces.
In an authorized statement, NATO officials have stated that the operation, which will send 1,300 troops from 19 nations, has been planned since the beginning of last year, before the Georgian-Russian conflict.
Tensions between Russia and the NATO alliance have been fierce in the past and many coalition members are concerned with interfering in countries deemed by Moscow to be within their traditional sphere of influence.
April 15th, 2009
China released a two-year human rights action plan on Monday in an effort to reinforce some of the civil liberties that have been neglected in recent times.
Among the policies targeted in the document is the right to a fair trial, the right to question government policies, and a call for measures to discourage torture.
The plan has received praise from many world organizations that see this as a step in the right direction, but maintain that China still has a long road ahead.
“It’s a step forward, I think. It’s also good there are some concrete benchmarks with 2010 as a deadline,” said Roseann Rife of Amnesty International, before also adding, “There are very serious abuses omitted from the plan.”